The eCommerce industry is actively growing, earning more than $1.915 trillion worldwide in 2016 alone. That means warehouses and shipping centers are becoming more and more necessary to do business and meet the growing demands.
But behind every successful eCommerce warehouse, there’s a team of dedicated forklift operators working to move loads and distribute products. Experienced forklift drivers can make all the difference in your operation. But there are a few key skills your team should have before getting started.
Here are some of the most important forklift skills to look for when choosing operators.
1. Ability to Think on Their Feet
Forklift drivers experience a lot of change. No two days are the same and the types of loads they'll move throughout the day depends on your shipment schedule.
This makes for an interesting and dynamic work environment. But it also means they need to be able to think on their feet.
The changing conditions impact everyone working in the warehouse. Drivers need to be ready to change plans, work around others, and come up with creative solutions at the drop of a hat. The best forklift operators adapt to the changes rather than panicking.
2. Extensive Training and Understanding of the Machine
Driving a forklift takes skill and experience. And that means your operators need to have the proper training and certifications to do it safely. Further, they need to know the machine like the back of their hand.
If something is wrong with it, they need to be able to troubleshoot the problem fast. Otherwise, the day’s quotas are in limbo.
Similarly, drivers need to be able to navigate through a constantly changing and moving atmosphere without hitting boxes, equipment, shelving, or other team members.
3. Great Communication Skills
Part of being a great driver is being able to communicate with others in the warehouse. Whenever they’re behind the controls, operators are responsible for making sure everyone stays safe.
This means explaining what they’re doing, what they need others to do, and updating supervisors as needed.
Forklift operators also need to be able to interpret delivery manifests, create work orders, and potentially manage reports. When you hire a forklift operator with stellar communication skills, you won’t have to worry about what’s happening when you’re away from the warehouse.
4. Willingness to Be Patient
Contrary to popular belief, driving a forklift is not like operating a pallet jack or driving a car. The loads need to stay balanced, secured and moved quickly but safely.
It takes great patience to make sure everything is ready with the load and the machine before driving through the warehouse. If it’s not, and the driver is solely focused on getting the job done quickly, your risk of damaged product and on-the-job injuries increases.
Look for operators that are patient, willing to communicate their concerns, and ready to take the time needed to get things done right the first time.
5. Passion for Safety
Forklifts can carry loads ranging from 4,000 to more than 70,000 pounds. That’s a lot of weight to haul around! And that heavy load means your drivers need to have a passion for safety anytime they’re at the controls.
Experienced operators understand that one wrong move can injure a coworker or damage product permanently. Having a passion for safety means the entire operation is in good hands. The more forklift operators prioritize safety, the better off the entire warehouse will be.
6. Sense of Confidence
There’s a fine line between confidence and cockiness. But a forklift driver without confidence can make the task take longer than it should.
Experienced forklift operators have the training required to get the job done right. They know they’ll get the job done and just how to do it without a second thought.
Being confident in their abilities allows forklift operators to perform the task well while staying in line with the business’s timetable. And if they see ways the system can improve in order to increase efficiency, they’ll make those suggestions readily.
7. Love of Organization
Forklift operators are your eyes and ears on the floor when it comes to managing loads and transporting them. Any incident reports and work orders must get filled out correctly and organized to help management keep track.
The ideal operator knows that organization is important. They’ll also go to great lengths to make sure everything they do stays organized at all times.
8. The Desire to Keep Driving Record Clean
OSHA has many clear-cut safety protocols in place to help keep your operation injury and accident-free as often as possible. Any violation of those protocols earns you a citation and a fine.
Your forklift drivers are responsible for helping maintain those OSHA regulations. It requires dedication to maintaining a clean operation record. This means they should take care not to overload the forklift, operate it safely at all times, and maintain the equipment whenever possible.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to enforce a clean record, but great operators pursue them on their own.
9. Good Basic Math Skills
Believe it or not, there is some math involved in driving and operating a forklift. And understanding basic math is one of the most important forklift skills out there.
Operators need to be able to calculate the overall weight of the load to make sure it’s in compliance with the machine’s capabilities. They may also need to be able to calculate freight prices, shipment costs, and other operating expenses.
Arguably the most important skill of any great forklift operator is being reliable. Businesses depend on them to get the job done.
When an operator is absent, late, or lazy, it hurts the company’s bottom line. If you’re hiring new operators, do your due diligence. Check their references, inspect their current forklift certifications, and make sure they can do the job you need them to do.
Always Look for These Skills in an Experienced Forklift Operator
As a business owner, finding a forklift operator you trust can be a challenge. When interviewing candidates, look for these important forklift skills before making a hiring decision.
If you have employees that already fit the bill, but need training before they can take over your warehouse operations, contact us today. Our forklift training classes meet OSHA standards and will get your team ready to drive and operate forklifts safely.